The Cjrcus: Vignettes| Readtime: 32 minutes
Patience, a priest, and Monty, a recruiter for a gang, should very much not be together. They are, anyway.
Reinforcement, that’s the key. Even the simple tricks need refreshing: sit, stay, lie down. Boat is clever, but can’t be expected to remember everything without practice.
Today it’s retrieval. The property around the house sprawls, with grass just tall enough to almost swallow the terrier up. A smelly shoe is a good target, and it’s fun to throw.
The fact it’s Adrean’s is just a bonus.
“You’re playing a dangerous game,” Monty says, watching Boat shake the boot viciously. “It’s a bad idea.”
“Nonsense. It’s just fetch.”
His dark eyes cut over to Patience, who knows he’s being obtuse. “You’re not in a position to push him.”
Patience snorts, tugging the shoe from Boat’s jaws and pitching it into the grass again. The dog bolts. “He likes it when you’re happy. I make you happy. I don’t see the problem.”
“You overestimate how much he values something as ephemeral as my happiness.”
It’s a wry look that the tiefling slides his way. “No, I feel quite safe as long as you’re between us. I’ve never seen someone so viscerally invested in family as you two. It’s honestly strange to me.”
“Strange,” Monty echoes. “Why?”
“Strange thing to invest yourself in.”
Monty sits with that for a moment. He turns it over as Boat comes galloping back with his brother’s shoe, gleeful as ever. “I don’t know what you mean. That’s not strange. It’s natural.”
For his part, Patience shrugs. He tells Boat drop it and she obeys instantly, eager to please. Her reward is ruffled ears and an invitation to jump up onto Patience’s lap. “I guess.”
“Family’s fine. I just don’t think it’s the end-all be-all a lot of people make it out to be.” Boat wriggles on his lap, panting. “‘The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb,’ and all that.”
He falls silent again, cooing over his dog. Monty sits there in the grass beside him, trying to pick out precisely what it is he does not like about that. “Family’s always there for you. That’s what family means.”
“Nonsense. Family means you’re related. Nothing more.”
Patience simply looks at him, waiting for him to go on. This conversation is not what Monty wants to be having, he realizes. “You owe your family. They’re the only ones you can trust to look out for your best interests.”
“I assure you it was not in mine nor my mother’s best interests when my dad disappeared.” He says it simply, without self-pity. “I don’t owe him anything.”
“That’s different. He left.”
“Sure, I guess. But what if he’d stayed and been a dreadful father? Beaten my mother?” He shrugs, letting Boat down again. “I don’t see the point in idolizing it, but I’m not saying you shouldn’t care about Adrean. It … does make sense to me, I think, with, you know. Your situation.” And now he tilts his head to the side, offering a smile. “I just think he’s an asshole.”
Monty exhales, watching as Patience picks up the slobber-laden shoe and chucks it again. Boat’s off like a shot. “Well,” he admits, “you’re not wrong.”
On the Roof
“Put down the bottle.”
Monty grumbles and, if anything, curls up closer around the half-empty wine bottle he’s got. It’s his second one, if the empty at his side is an indicator. Not to mention the part where he is on the barn roof.
Patience sighs. He’s going to have to get the ladder, because there’s no obvious way up. Like as not, Monty polymorphed himself into an eagle or something to both get up there and bring the bottles. He’s done it before, and he’s going to break his neck one of these days.
In the time it takes Patience to find and set up the ladder, the sun has begun to set and Monty has absolutely finished the second bottle. Now he’s sprawled sideways, uncomfortably close to the edge. If he had his loud-drunk phase tonight, Patience missed it, or he skipped straight to the melancholy phase. Given he chose to isolate himself, Patience suspects the latter.
Tieflings are said to have natural balance due to their tails. If this it true, it skipped over Patience. When he crawls unsteadily onto the roof his tail is lashing, alright, but not in any manner that is particularly helpful. But he manages, and scoots closer to Monty. He takes a cautionary grip on the man’s ankle, just in case he should decide to roll in the wrong direction. “I suppose there’s no point in asking you to give me the bottle now,” he says wryly, mostly to himself. “What are you doing?”
Monty grunts. He flexes his toes, which are bare. Patience sighs. “Monty,” he starts, and then squawks as Monty sits bolt upright. “Careful!”
“I’m careful,” he mutters.
“You’re drunk,” Patience says, exhaling.
He knows better than to ask why, because that’s a sure-fire way to never find out. Instead he tugs on Monty’s arm and makes a point of not looking down. The barn is a good twenty feet, and unlike Monty, Patience has no means of righting himself should he slip. “Come on, come away from the edge.”
Monty’s head lolls onto his shoulder as he gives Patience a disdainful look. “Not by the edge.”
“You’re on top of it, honey, come on.”
“Don’t touch me.”
He yanks on Patience’s grip, hard, and Patience lets go for fear of making him struggle harder. “Okay, okay,” he says, curling his tail around his own ankles and wishing he didn’t feel like a chastised child. “I’m sorry. I won’t touch you.”
Monty is sullen when he grunts something in answer.
It’s cold; it’s early spring, and it’s not yet nice enough to be out after dark. Patience tucks his arms against himself, and feels foolish. Just because he’s developed a crush on this bastard doesn’t mean anything; it certainly doesn’t mean he’s going to listen to anything Patience says, particularly not here and not now. He tries not to let his ears droop, but even if he did, he doubts Monty would notice. Or care.
They sit like that in silence for another handful of minutes. Patience longs to say something and can’t find the words. Monty gets cagey around kindness, more often than not turning up his showmanship to eleven as if to counteract it. Saying anything would like as not make him worse, which is a thing Patience hates.
Dumb little fawn, he scolds himself. Monty’s busy and lives in a whole different world with wholely different problems. It makes perfect sense this would never pan out.
Well. If he can at least keep Monty from breaking his neck tonight, he’ll count it as a win.
He shivers, and feels his skin prickle against the cold as the wind picks up. This is moronic. He should—
There’s heat at his side.
He looks and there is Monty, draping himself against him like a cat. Practically in his lap, even. “You look cold,” he drawls. “You cold?”
Well. Less, now, with the heat crawling up his face. He can feel Monty’s weight, pleasant and heavy, and he is warm and even a little soft. “Yeah,” he says after a moment, and dares a smile.
“Mmnnnm,” Monty says, and slides sideways into Patience’s lap. “I’m not.”
“That’s because you’re drunk, you git. I could leave you outside overnight, and you’d be an icicle in the morning.”
“No!” Monty practically yells. His hand flies upward, catching on Patience’s lip ring before he fumbles to sink his hand in Patience’s neatly-bundled hair. “No I wouldn’t. You wouldn’t.”
“What,” Patience says, trying to ignore how fast his heart is suddenly beating. “What, you wouldn’t freeze? Would you burrow in the ground?”
“You wouldn’t leave me to freeze,” Monty says, slurred. His fingers drag along Patience’s jaw line. “I can tell. I can tell. Right? Patience? Pache.”
The note of sudden desperation in his voice tears at the tiefling. He wishes Monty wouldn’t drink. Wouldn’t put Patience in positions like this one. “I wouldn’t leave you in the cold,” he says, and rests his hand on Monty’s chest. It’s about as much as he dares.
“You should,” Monty says, and his hand drops with about as much grace as the statement. And as if that were not enough, a second later he yawns and cuddles in closer to Patience’s body. “I can tell, though. You like me.”
Patience seizes, terrified. His cheeks are hot. “Um,” he says, elegantly.
“You shouldn’t,” Monty continues, his tone heavy. He’s gripping Patience’s shirt. “Stupid goat. Should leave.”
“… I don’t want to leave.”
“Gonna get killed.”
This is something Patience has already begun to gather. He swallows, weighing his answers, and wonders if this will become one of those moments that features at a hinging point in his life. “It,” and he feels young and stupid and senseless even thinking it, let alone saying it, but he says it anyway. “If it means I get to know you, it’s worth it.”
As he watches Monty, he sees a parade of emotions whittle down his facade. It peels him open. And it unveils theanger. “Don’t,” he snaps, and shoves himself upright. He looks Patience dead in the shocked eye. “Don’t you dare fucking say that. Not worth getting killed over me. None, none of this is worth getting killed for. Fucking idiot. How—how dare you. How dare you?”
And yet Patience only hears despair, not fury.
“Leave,” Monty says, swiping at Patience’s shoulder. He misses terribly, drunk as ever. “Leave! I’ll fucking kill you myself—”
He lashes out again, and it’s trivial for Patience to catch his wrist, trivial to haul him back into his lap. Monty struggles, cursing and thumping against him before all at once he sags into Patience’s embrace.
“Go,” he says again, muffled in Patience’s neck, even as he knots his hands in the tiefling’s shirt.
“No,” Patience says, and his chest aches. “I won’t leave you.”
Monty’s having trouble adjusting. He won’t say it, but Patience is relatively certain. And it’s hard to blame him, because going from luxurious manor living to a rather squalid home in the poor burrough of Dun Loroon must be difficult.
As a cleric, Patience was used to a life that lacked in the material, and even now he owned very little. Their new home felt cozy and open to him. But even he could tell its two rooms, plus kitchen and what might generously be called a living area, were to Monty like putting a free-range horse into a stable and locking the door.
This was to say nothing of sharing such a small space with two other people.
Curiously, Felix has adapted at once. He has spent time adventuring, of course, and Patience’s limited knowledge of adventurers is that they live haphazard lives in dangerous conditions. So perhaps Felix is used to it—he’s younger, too, of course.
Their first night there Monty twists in the sheets for an hour before slipping away. Patience, kept awake, debates following him. It’s a new and strange bed, and sleep seems elusive. He falls asleep before he can muster the will to get up, though.
The second night is much the same, and both days Patience awakes to an empty bed. (This is frustrating; waking up next to Monty as a daily thing was one of the boons he had been excited for with their escape.) But he’s in the kitchen with coffee and whatever he’s been writing in that journal since they left, so Patience does not fret over it too much.
On the third night, Patience drags Monty to bed early and fucks him senseless. That is the first night they fall asleep together, tangled naked and overwarm, and it is the first time since this started that Monty does not seem on edge.
But he’s gone in the morning.
Patience does not see him until well past lunch, after he himself has made a tour of the nearby temples with an eye for any that might need the aid of a healer. He finds no such thing. What he does find is Monty sitting baggy-eyed on the stone steps that lead up to the door of their new home, clutching a mug of something hot and dark as if it will save him. From what, Patience is unsure.
Sitting in tight spaces is a pain with his tail, but he wedges himself in next to Monty anyway. Said tail curls around the man, the tip coming to rest in his lap. It’s a familiar gesture, an intimate one. Monty—who until now has given Patience only the barest acknowledgement—seems surprised when he notices it. “Morning,” he says at last.
“It’s two in the afternoon,” Patience says, not unkindly.
Monty grunts. “Can’t tell. City has walls, or didn’t you notice?”
“The sun is right there.”
The glare Monty gives him lacks any real bite. Then he sags and leans heavy against Patience’s shoulder, and in response Patience wraps his arm around Monty’s shoulders. “Go somewhere this morning?” he prompts eventually.
“Just looking around.”
It’s a non-answer and Patience can tell, but he can’t find a means to follow up on it. And, eventually, Monty squeezes his hand before getting up and saying: “I saw a place to eat a few streets off. Or is it too late for lunch, too?”
This continues, and Patience actually begins to worry.
Their bed is almost always empty when he wakes up, and Monty almost always looks haggard. About half the time he crashes on their lone little armchair, passing out in the middle of the day—and he’s alarmed and aggressive if anyone wakes him.
“Has Monty always had trouble with new places?” Patience asks Felix one day, a day when Monty actually made it upstairs before passing out. He’s peeling potatoes and trying to remember how stew works, because they can’t afford to keep getting their meals at the tavern—something both the Lumleys don’t seem to grasp. Felix looks up at him from where he’s picking through a book Patience doesn’t recognize; Patience adjusts his question. “Do you know, I mean?”
Felix shakes his head. Patience’s understanding of Sign is still rudimentary, but he can make out Felix’s answer. ‘Never seen him anywhere else. Not permanently.’
“I suppose not,” Patience says, and cuts his hand on the knife. The stew has blood in it that night, but only a bit.
Patience has never considered himself a particularly emotional or vulnerable man, but compared to Monty, he’s an open book. This said, he is not the most intelligent at this sort of thing. Honestly, he had hoped that after they left that wretched manor and life behind them that everything would simply sort itself out. He says as much to Felix one day, while they’re digging weeds out of the tiny back garden, and Felix snorts.
‘Monty is spooked.’
“He’s … what did you say?”
‘S-P-O-O-K,’ Felix fingersigns. ‘He’s scared.’
Patience swipes at his own face, smudging dirt on it, and gives Felix a disbelieving look. “Scared? Of what?”
The deadpan stare Felix levels at him when he says this makes him wonder what training it is teenagers receive to make you feel so utterly stupid.
The next two days are dreadful precisely because Patience actually starts looking for the signs of fear in his boyfriend, and he can’t be sure if he sees them. He isn’t sure if Monty is simply good at hiding them.
He loses all doubt the night he comes home laden with groceries and finds Monty raging drunk, and Felix nowhere to be found. Boat has shoved herself under the armchair and watches them both with wide eyes and the occasional affronted yip.
Patience has made a point of buying no booze; given Monty’s tendencies it seemed wiser, and moreover he liked the idea of a clean slate, so to speak. A house unvisited by Monty’s drunken rants and penchant for breaking very useless, valuable things. So when Patience instinctively groans out a, “Monty, really?” it’s perhaps not the best thing he could have said.
Definitely not, he thinks, as Monty hisses at him before transforming into a small falcon.
It is also a drunk falcon. Monty makes a valiant attempt at taking flight and succeeds only at narrowly avoiding a beak-first crash into the icebox. He does this with an ungainly shriek and banks hard, gaining height and promptly diving at Patience’s head. Every breakable thing Patience has purchased proceeds to do so as he tries to protect his face, dropping the bags.
A brief and moronic chase ensues, with Boat scrambling out to join the hunt as Patience desperately tries to corner his boyfriend-turned-bird with a broom. Only one window is broken, which Patience will later count as a win. And finally Monty is herded into the coat closet, where he will suffer relatively little harm when he returns to his human shape.
Inside the closet Monty screams. Patience is familiar with hawk-Monty’s screeching, an ear-piercing sound that has no business in an enclosed space, and all he can really do is bar the door with a chair (in the event he goes from bird to boar) and sit against it. And cover his poor ears. To make matters worse, Boat starts barking every time Monty goes off, feeding into one another’s noise like the stupidest possible echo chamber.
This lasts for twenty-two minutes before the screaming comes to an end. Patience almost doesn’t realize it, not until he hears a weak thump on the door. Boat starts barking again, only this time it is punctuated with an anguished “Shut up!”
Patience grimaces. He grabs the terrier and pulls her into his lap, shoving her snout under his arm. “Monty?” he tries cautiously.
Oh, gods. “Monty, it’s just me,” Patience tries, swallowing a rising hopelessness. “It’s Patience. I’m going to open the door, okay?”
Silence. Patience unbars the door and braces himself. He opens it.
Monty’s pathetic swing from where he sits half-slumped on the ground catches him in the shin. “Ow! Fuck! You—-motherfucker!”
Monty stares up at him, sweating and disheveled. He might have been sexy, if Patience weren’t covered in scratches and his partner did not stink of whiskey. As it is he is a travesty, one that lurches for Patience as soon as he recognizes the tiefling. “Fuck you!” Patience spits out reflexively, but Monty grabs him by the tail from between his legs and drags him forward. And shuts the door behind them.
Amid Boat’s wild barking and scratches at the door, Patience feels Monty’s feeble groping for a handhold before finally yanking him all the way down. He drops with a thump that hurts now and will hurt more later, but then Monty has wrapped himself aggressively around him, and … Patience simply does not know what to do with that. “What the hell are you doing?” he says, trying to get Monty’s elbow out of his neck.
“Protecting you,” Monty says, as if his rail-thin frame and six inches under Patience’s height would make this obvious.
“From them!” Monty bursts out, and even in the near-dark of the closet Patience catches the wild desperation in his eyes. “The Cjrcus! My brother!”
Patience is momentarily dumbstruck. It is time enough to allow Monty to tighten his grip. “Wait, what?” Patience says, trying and failing to push himself out of the steel grip. “Monty, we’re a country away. They’re not—they won’t bother us anymore.”
The harsh crow of a laugh Monty barks out is painful. “A country?” he says. “A fucking country? You think that’s enough? You think anywhere is safe? Maybe if we went to, to another plane, Pache, that’s, f-fuck, gods, all Adrean did was give us a head start! I don’t know why I agreed to stay here! We can’t stay anywhere!”
Hysteria bleeds through each word. As Patience’s eyes adjust, as he watches his terrified Monty, the pieces knit together: the sleeplessness, the caffeine, the fear. He thinks they are being followed.
And worse, still, Patience cannot tell him they are not.
Babbling, still. “I can’t do it again,” Monty is saying, his grip painful on Patience’s limbs. “I don’t know why he’s let us go, it can’t just be Felix. It’s never just anything with Adrean. I can’t. Patience, Pache, I can’t do it again, I can’t lose someone again.”
There is, Patience realizes dimly, nothing he can say.
But he tries anyway.
“… You’re not going to lose me,” he says, gentle, and touches the back of his hand to Monty’s cheek. He is startled to find that it is damp. He perseveres. “Monty. It … if he were playing a game with us it would be over by now.”
“You don’t know him—-“
“No, but I know how things worked,” Patience cuts in, firm. “They … they probably are watching us, you’re right. They’re probably making sure we aren’t ratting them out. But the time to kill us would have been when we were on the road, not weeks after we’ve settled down in a major city. It would be the least optimal thing they could do.” His hand slides down, cupping Monty’s chin. “And you and I both know Adrean does nothing that is not optimal.”
In the faint light that creeps in under the door, Patience can see Monty’s eyes glimmering, wet and wide. With his hand on Monty’s chin he feels it when he swallows, and all around him his grip slackens. “You’re,” he begins, and has to shake himself. “You’re right. About that.”
Gingerly, Patience disentangles his hands. He slides one through Monty’s hair, bracing the back of his neck. “Nothing’s coming to get us,” he says, with as much faith as he can muster. He believes it—-he does. At the very least, he believes the next part. “Not tonight.”
“I don’t want to lose you,” Monty mumbles. “I don’t know what I’d do. I—Lera—“
He falls silent as Patience touches their foreheads together, gentle. “You won’t,” he says, and he hopes it is true.
No Right Answer
Oh, he’s pouting. Patience is dreadful when he pouts. He’s so damn good at it.
The tiefling has stalked off deeper into their little house, sitting on his favorite perch, a little nook in the stairwell inset by a window. He does look very fine with the sun pouring down on him.
“What’s your problem?” Monty asks, slinging an arm over his partner’s shoulder. It doesn’t get shoved off, which is good. “You’re not seriously mad about the blood thing?”
There is not a right answer to this question, about whether or not he is annoyed about being tricked into drinking pig’s blood; if Patience denies it, Monty will happily pretend nothing is wrong until Patience either bursts or gets over it. If he says yes, Monty will tease him for being thin-skinned. It’s a good system.
And Patience knows this, so he does neither. “You know what animal blood does to me,” he says, refusing eye contact. “My magic is going to be thrown off for a week.”
“Like you use it for more than tricks and being lazy.”
“I like being lazy,” Patience retorts.
Monty rolls his eyes. He shifts, settling down on his knees to lean into Patience’s lap. This advance is not rebuffed either. “You could have just bitten into me if you were going to get all dramatic about it.”
The look Patience gives him next makes him stifle a laugh into his arm. “Monty, honestly,” Patience says, a little desperate. “Don’t be mean.”
It’s a pointless thing to say, they both know it; Monty’s bread and butter is teasing his tiefling. Patience says it anyway. Monty thinks it’s cute. “Inez could probably tell you how to do it right, you know,” he goes on, walking his fingers up Patience’s stomach. Patience has gotten a little paunchy in his old age. It’s nice. Monty flashes him a rakish grin. “You’d just have to tell her about how you did it wrong.”
This gets Monty shoved onto the floor. He laughs again, not bothering to stifle it this time. Patience is looking firmly out the window, arms folded across his chest, but his tail is wrapping itself around his ankle. Monty’s time as a recruiter got him used to the body language of just about every sapient tailed race, but Patience’s is his favorite, because he’s an idiot who doesn’t know how to be a tiefling. He has all the same tells, but they mean different things from just about every other tiefling he’s ever met. A tail around the leg usually reveals relaxation: for Patience, it’s insecurity. “Oh, come on,” Monty says from the floor, righting himself to lean back on his hands. “Don’t be that way.”
“I said don’t be mean.”
“I don’t know any other way to be,” Monty says, and gets to his feet. He leans against the frame of the window nook, for once able to look down at Patience. Resting his forehead against the edge, he lets his smirk soften. “I’d be up to try it again, you know,” he says at length, and not-so-subtly rubs his hand against his throat. You have to look quite hard to see them, these days, the two pale dots of scar tissue that run parallel to his jugular. They’re just about an inch apart, and healed raggedly, even with Patience’s magic. Patience had, of course, been occupied—and the entry wounds had been terribly hard to see with all the blood.
Patience’s ears pin; anger in another tiefling, perhaps. This one, in this context, almost certainly means embarrassment. He wets his lips and then almost winces, as if remember his fangs. “I don’t know,” he says at last. “You could’ve really gotten hurt. You did get hurt. That’s … it’s a dangerous game.”
“I like dangerous games.”
Patience exhales, and licks his lips again.
The thought’s on his mind now, of course. Monty’s, too, but mostly Patience’s, and Patience is the one to convince.
Monty watches him that week. (He always does, but this time with special attention.) Patience has become more aware of his mouth, it seems. He’s fussing with his piercings, and only a few days later he’s asking if Monty’s seen the lip balm. Patience handles most of the cooking, because both Lumleys are utterly hopeless at it, and there is an uptick in vegetarian fare.
Frankly, it’s hilarious, because if Patience truly wasn’t interested he would have already forgotten about it. The denial he’s carrying could drown him if he jumped into the river.
It’s a week later when Felix and his friends come around again, including Inez, and it tickles Monty that Patience manages to walk in just as Inez is throwing back more raw blood. This time it’s stuff he’s saved for her, because it’s part of the butchering and she pays for it. The look on Patience’s face when she hollers at him and waves her dented cup full of crimson at him is priceless.
And of course he rushes off. It’s next to impossible to tell when he’s blushing if you just look at his face, but the tips of his ears, the pale insides, have turned pink.
Now’s the moment.
Monty faffs around a few minutes longer before making an excuse about a prior appointment. Felix, married as he is to his weapons, nevertheless gives him a magnificent raised eyebrow, which Monty sees and makes a point to ignore. It’s always a blessing that none of his friends can read Sign.
‘We’ll be down here a while. Don’t be too loud.’
Monty signs back. ‘No promises.’
‘Gross,’ Felix replies.
Monty saunters. He strolls back into the house and up the stairs from the shop, wondering where he might find his partner. Cold shower, maybe? No. Not in the kitchen. Ah. Living room. He’s draped dramatically over the couch, tail coiled on the floor. “You got out of there fast,” Monty says, leaning against the doorway.
Patience, for his part, does not startle. Possibly he was expecting this. “Did you plan that?” he says, cutting a tired look at him. When Monty shakes his head, he snorts. “I don’t know that I believe you.”
“If I’d known you’d react that much I definitely would have.”
“You’re not going to stop, are you,” Patience sighs, as if he needs Monty to confirm it. “Bastard. Come here.”
He sits up, leaning heavy on the arm rest, and Monty joins him. He kicks up his feet to rest them in the tiefling’s lap and reclines to watch. “There are more straightforward ways to ask,” Patience says presently.
Monty grins and adjusts his glasses. “None of this was planned. I told you. Not my fault Felix made nice with a blood pervert.”
“It was just such a mess last time!” Patience says, slumping. “All that blood! The mattress is still stained.”
“I thought I’d killed you.”
Silence, at that. This is it, this is Patience’s sore spot. If Monty is honest, which he is not, he could admit this is why he has not pushed the issue. Tieflings drink blood; from Monty’s research, this is something they are usually taught how to do safely by another tiefling. Patience had no such upbringing. This is why, of course, Monty had come alarmingly close to bleeding out in their own bed. That was another of those things tieflings allegedly learned from their elders: how not to get drunk off fresh blood.
But Monty just says, “Yeah, you missed a perfectly good opportunity there,” and Patience throws a pillow at him. Monty aims a kick at his thigh in response, and all in all the faux struggle that follows is the exact excuse he was looking for to fully worm his way onto Patience’s lap.
He has always enjoyed kissing Patience, even when the man was wet behind the ears and thought sticking his tongue down Monty’s throat was the height of sensuality. The piercings in his lip and tongue were a fun little novelty, and he just has a very soft mouth. (No, Monty doesn’t quite know what that means, but it’s true.) These days the piercings are only something he notices when they aren’t there, on days Patience takes them out, but his mouth is as soft as it ever was and he has gained the boon of experience. Monty slips his fingers through the loose braid that’s bundled over his shoulder and hums before pulling away. “I’m not going to make you do anything,” he says eventually, eyes shut as he rests his forehead on Patience’s. “Just tell me to fuck off.”
The answering silence is longer than he anticipated, and a fidgety discomfort roots its way into the back of his brain. Perhaps he’s misread this. He knew Patience was tender about their first and only go at tiefling vampirism, but maybe—
“Did you really like it that much?”
Monty opens his eyes. He finds he has to think about it. Patience is watching him, close, eyes big and worried. “I can’t remember if you did or not,” Patience goes on. “The whole thing really did scare me.”
“I, well.” Monty is on the back foot, as he ever is when Patience brings his true, childish earnestness to him. There are days where he hates his sobriety. “It was a while back now,” he starts. “I mean, it hurt. You were biting me.”
He is so good at talking. Why is this so difficult? “I liked you doing it,” he tries, and grimaces as the words don’t take the meaning he wants them to. “I liked that it was … a part of you that I got to see. And, I mean. You were on top of me. That’s always hot.”
Patience gives a good-natured groan, but his arms loop around Monty’s waist and pull him closer. It takes him some time to answer. “Well,” he says at last. “Maybe.”
“Maybe,” Patience says, and nuzzles his neck. “It was—the parts I can remember, before it went sideways. I—I did like those. Just, um. More precautions, maybe. Some bandages on hand. Next time.”
“Tell me what you liked about it,” Monty says from where he’s reclined on the bed. He’s watching Patience pull his shirt off; he’s lying on what amounts to a tarp. Patience had been very adamant about the tarp, which Monty can’t blame him for. Patience has also been adamant about the little stack of emergency supplies on the bedside table, mostly about the delicate-looking little orb that acts like a magical tourniquet when cracked against a wound.
“Um,” Patience says. His shirt is caught on his horns. “Blood tastes good.”
“It does!” Patience insists. He peels the shirt off and tosses it to the ground. “We’re … tieflings, I mean, tieflings are designed to do it. It tastes good. It scratches an … itch, I guess? Do you really have to be naked for this?” He pauses, looking over the display before him as Monty puts his arms behind his head. “This isn’t, like … mandatorily horny.”
“Says you,” Monty counters. It’s banter. In the back of his mind, now that this whole thing is imminent, well—there’s a niggling little concern. He did come very close to a true medical emergency last time. Not that he’s going to let Patience know about that. So he just grins and makes a show of lifting his hips. “You’re gonna be sucking me, right?”
Patience rolls his eyes.
It’s familiar when Patience settles his weight over top of him, and after nearly ten years of this Monty isn’t terribly ashamed to admit his dick has been conditioned to perk up when this happens. This time, though, Patience leaves his weight on his legs, looking over Monty with an expression more befitting a skeptic than a lover. But he licks his lips, and Monty catches a flash of sharp white. “Okay,” he says presently. “Promise you’ll stop me if you need to.”
“I promise nothing.”
“Monty,” Patience says, his voice thick with genuine worry, and Monty has to reach up and squeeze his bicep to bring him back.
“I’m kidding,” Monty says, layering sincerity in his voice. He’s good at that, sincerity does gangbusters for bringing in uncertain recruits. He’s less used to meaning it, and maybe that’s why he falters. (He really fucking wishes he had a drink.) “Pache. I promise, alright? Look, it’s you. It’s not like you’re going to turn into a monster.”
Patience sighs, and Monty takes the moment to reach up and stroke his cheek. “Stop screwing around,” Monty says, with true fondness. “Let’s do this.”
“Right,” Patience says, and lowers himself downward.
There is a kiss, and another, gentle and almost chaste (or it would be if Monty’s cock wasn’t rubbing against Patience’s stomach). And above him he hears Patience make a frustrated sort of sound before finally dipping his head to press his mouth to Monty’s throat. It’s the same side as last time, as before, and Monty wonders for a moment if the entry wounds will overlap. Then he’s not thinking about much, because he’s concentrating on not cursing as Patience gingerly tilts his head to one side and bites.
It does hurt. Instinctively he digs his nails into Patience’s back, doing everything he can not to tense up. His neck is a muddle of sensations: pain, the motion of Patience’s tongue, the feeling of his own blood spilling out of him. He feels Patience’s hand creep up through his hair and grab hold as if to keep him still, and the gentle suction that pulls the blood from his body.
He whines, but does not struggle. The shock of pain had gone to his dick, too, but as he adjusts and begins to focus on the sound of Patience’s panting each time he stops to breathe, this strange intimacy coaxes his body back. He can put his attention on the hungry sounds Patience makes now and then, on the not-infrequent roll of his hips; when Monty shifts to try and adjust his partner’s grip on his hair, he’s not expecting the warning growl he is given, nor the way Patience grabs his wrist and pins it to the mattress. His cock throbs.
He’s starting to get dizzy, though. Bleary. It’s not like being drunk, exactly, but it’s not unlike it either. He bites his lip as Patience widens the wound, his nails digging into his palm where Patience has it trapped. He promised, he thinks. He promised he’d make him stop, he’s going to have to make him stop if he wants this to be a positive experience for both of them. If he wants to do it again, which—he think he does. He really thinks he does.
Then he thinks about the fact Patience is drinking him and for a moment cannot do anything but moan.
The next time Patience pulls away, gasping raggedly, Monty gathers up what self-awareness he has left and grabs the tiefling by his braid, yanking. “That’s it,” he says, hoarse, seeking out Patience’s eyes. “That’s it, you’re done.”
“Not done,” Patience growls, and oh, maybe Monty was a little wrong about him not becoming a monster.
But if he is, he’s not all the way there yet, and Monty presses the advantage. “You’re done,” he says, and knees Patience in the stomach. Not hard, just enough to force him off and allow Monty room to roll over and grab the magic styptic. He cracks it against his throat and groans as the cooling magic begins its work at once, soothing the worst of the pain. When he brings his hand away it’s covered in blood; when he looks at Patience, his red skin is stained redder.
There’s silence for a moment. Patience is prone beside him, panting, his pupils blown out. Magic reaction, Monty thinks dimly; he’s read about that, about tieflings reacting strongly to the blood of magic-users. Especially ones unused to it.
He’s aware of himself, though. At least enough to cough and wipe at his mouth, and look dazedly at Monty. “Monty?” he gets out. “I, mmn. H-hah. Are you—fuck, um, are you okay?”
Is he okay. He considers this, and rolls onto his side to face Patience. “Dizzy,” he says at last, and looks again at his bloodied hand. He holds it out to the tiefling, who freezes. Monty smirks. “Not … not too bad, though. Go on.”
This is all it takes for Patience to take his hand and lick, ferverently. Monty is into that, he decides. “As bad as you’d thought?” he murmurs, feeling the tension start to unwind.
“Worse,” Patience says around Monty’s fingers with a little moan, eyes closed and brow knit. “I liked it.”